The Chicago Cubs yesterday announced new roles and new structures to the developmental side of their farm system. I was very pleased to see it.
Sometimes, huge news is hidden in plain sight, and I think maybe that happened with the structural and personnel changes in the Cubs’ organization. Although I’ve seen some folks describe the moves with the obligatory deck-chairs-Titanic reference, that’s not at all how I see things.
I see the Cubs aggressively overhauling the most disappointing area of the organization over the last few years (player development), holding themselves accountable for failures that have ultimately seen the Cubs have their lunch eaten by more progressive organizations like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Rays. Scouting well is one thing, but it also seems like, whenever one of those clubs needs another big-time contributor, they simply pluck a rando out of AAA, and the guy is immediately a star. Because he’s been made into one.
The Cubs did a good job crafting some contributors (and they certainly have gotten better in the last year), but real impact has been missing. Thus: big changes.
Everything on the development side of the Cubs organization is completely different now: (1) the guy in charge of player development and scouting, Jason McLeod, was moved over to the big league side, (2) the director of player development, Jaron Madison, was moved to a special assistant role on the scouting side, (3) the director of amateur scouting, Matt Dorey, was moved to the senior director of player development AND a director of player development, Bobby Basham, was added as a role, AND an assistant director of player development, Jeremy Farrell, was added as a role, and (4) the Cubs added directors of hitting (Justin Stone) and pitching (Craig Breslow).
We can’t know precisely what this will look like until it’s humming along and more developmental time plays out, but the short version is that the people involved at the top of player development, and the structure for player development, are entirely transformed. It is a complete and total overhaul (and expansion). It’s what the Cubs needed to do, and they did it.
As Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney described the changes, “The Cubs see many of these changes as empowering people whose voices and ideas were previously not heard. Now, the most forward-thinking people — the ones on the cutting edge who would normally be pursued by other organizations to run these types of initiatives — are in positions of power.”
Moreover, the Cubs explicitly noted that they “will announce further player development hirings and a new scouting leadership structure at a later date.” More is coming, likely in the way of outside hires. Poaching SZN looms.
Also, if you want a sense for what the Cubs were focusing on with these moves (MODERNIZATION!), consider that the director of pitching, Breslow, not only pitched in the big leagues for a long time, but is a Yale graduate with a scientific background. And the director of hitting, Stone? Well, here’s what he tweeted yesterday:
Very little EMG work has been done in hitting. Taking some hacks in the lab today to check lower body muscle firing patterns. pic.twitter.com/gCYd7HRHHo
— Justin Stone (@elite_baseball) October 17, 2019
You can read much more on what Stone and Breslow will be doing in this piece at The Athletic:
What do Justin Stone and Craig Breslow bring to the front office in their new roles? Why do the Cubs believe this is more than an internal reshuffling? How much of a rush are they to hire a new manager? @PJ_Mooney and I explain the Cubs latest changes https://t.co/KJIK8upr0i
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) October 18, 2019
It’s a truly ambitious restructuring of the way player development will work in the Cubs’ organization, and will include additional developmental coaches through the system. It would be great if the fruits could show as soon as next year at the big league level, but obviously the focus is much deeper, broader, and longer-term than that.